Cruz Pedregon leads the Funny Car ladder through the first two rounds qualifying for the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, taking place this weekend at Auto Plus Raceway at Gainesville, Florida. Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) lead their respective categories at the third NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event of the season.
Pedregon, who has one win in the Gatornationals, took the provisional No. 1 spot with a fast pass of 4.047 seconds (296.05 mph).
“We just have a good car,” said Pedregon. “It’s very forgiving and maybe making us look better than we are. It has been running good since mid-year last year and carried through over the winter and we have made some improvements. If anything it has picked up more consistency. This is definitely a good track here and one we like. It’s a good start for the Snap-on Tools Toyota."
Johnny Gray sits second (4.071 seconds/313.22 mph), followed by Del Worsham (4.110 seconds/309.98 mph).
Kalitta led the Top Fuel ladder with his fast pass of 3.801 seconds (325.85 mph), ahead of Shawn Langdon (3.802 seconds/324.59 mph) and defending world champion Antron Brown (3.812 seconds/321.88 mph).
“I am real proud of my guys, the car left real straight and ran great down through there,” Kalitta said. “My whole Mac Tools team has the car running good so I am happy to have a good ride here at the Gatornationals which is always a great event. It’s always a race you look at in the series and hope you can do well. I am real proud of what is going on and real hopeful that we can hold up tomorrow.”
Edwards paced the Pro Stock ladder with a new national record time of 6.473 at a track record speed 214.31 mph; if Edwards can hold onto the national record time until the completion of this event he will earn 20 bonus points.
"It’s fun to set the record, but tomorrow’s another day,” said Edwards. “We’ll see if we can adapt to the conditions. The air is so good here and we make so much power that you just have to be careful off the starting line because these engines are aspirated and they breathe what the air is and they love this kind of weather and make a lot of power. It’s a great way to start. We run really good in the first two races and now to come here in totally different conditions and keep it going, I’m just really proud of my guys.”
2012 Pro Stock champ Allen Johnson was second after two rounds (6.481 seconds/213.64 mph) and four-time Gatornationals winner Jason Line was third (6.483 seconds/213.40 mph).
Smith was quickest in PSM with a 6.804-second run (197.28 mph), ahead of Hector Arana Sr. (6.817 seconds/195.22 mph) and Hector Arana Jr. (6.831 seconds/194.55 mph).
“It feels good,” said Smith. “We worked hard all winter long and made a big gain at the end of last year in the last two races and we thought we were in the right direction and proved it in testing. I think we are going to be a strong team all year long. It’s going to be a fun year and I think the class is very, very equal. It will be like Pro Stock car, where you will live and die by the starting line.”
In the Harley-Davidson camp, Andrew Hines sits fourth (6.836 seconds/194.66 mph), while 2012 PSM champ Eddie Krawiec sits 16th (6.986 seconds/185.72 mph); Krawiec’s time will not carry over to Saturday.
Pro qualifying for the NHRA Gatornationals continues on Saturday, March 16th at noon and 2:15 p.m. ET; eliminations begin Sunday, March 17th at 11 a.m. ET. Stay up-to-date with the NHRA Gatornationals at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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